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Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra - Where or When

Where or When

Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra

Available from Barnes & Noble.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

I'll have to be forgiven if I profess I don't quite understand what these gents mean when claiming they intended their ensemble to be an instrumental combo but are now releasing a third collab with vocalists. The group's website is down or doesn't exist, so no enlightenment issues therefrom, but Wiki lists seven releases from the band, which means almost half the catalogue is vocally centered…if, as the promo indicates, this is indeed only their third venture thuswise. The gents also claim never to have intended recording these particular arrangements, yet here they are. I'm baffled.

On the other hand, if you're enamored of ultra-trad semi-big-band fare—13 members plus guest vocalists—Where or When is superb in its mega-fidelities to the hoary and rightly esteemed antediluvian scene…and, trust me, the older I get, the more I too, a confirmed psychedelicist, appreciate the grand old masters. Quality of this sort is not easy to locate nowadays. In fact, I was more than once reminded of Gil Evans' work with Miles in the mid-period, the Sketches of Spain days, especially in I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face here, an extremely elegant reading with Everett Greene's baritone smoothly sitting atop the slinky horns while simultaneously supporting the bottom end. Like the band itself, Greene's a strict singer: no pyrotechnics, no fancypanting, no skoobly-ops, just well-modulated literal takes on the transcriptions, a studied lesson in the discipline involved in keeping oneself faithful to the writers' intents. His readings are like an uncorked venerable long-cellered wine that the listener is surprised to find is instead a fine scotch, burning but oh-so-soothing as it goes down.

As one might guess, especially given the vocal register, this is romantic music in the classic sense and the audience finds itself understanding why its parents are still so devoted, especially amid raucous rock & roll times, to wistfulness in recalling the moods these sounds could inspire. Cynthia Layne is the alternate singer (3 cuts) and tends to get the livelier numbers; well, on two tracks anyway, as L-O-V-E is pretty laid back. Nonetheless, she follows Greene in being a by-the-books encanter, maintaining period atmosphere well.

The CD is completely of standards, which alone ought to prove attractive, especially when Wallerab & Buselli favor Hart & Rodgers so much. More, Rob Dixon from the Dixon-Rhyne Project (reviewed here) is a group member, sitting in on tenor, though of a markedly different flavor from that marvelous fusion group. As if all this weren't enough, both the band leaders have been called upon by the creme de la creme for their arranging talents: Wynton & Branford Marsalis, Makoto Ozone, Natalie Cole, The Count Basie Band, The Artie Shaw Band, and many others. If there's higher praise for this sort of sound, Im damned if I know what it is.

Track List:

  • My Romance (Hart / Rodgers)
  • Where or When (Hart / Rodgers)
  • L-O-V-E (Gabler / Kaempfert)
  • Watch What Happens (Gimbel / LeGrand)
  • I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face (Lerner / Lowe)
  • Wonderland (Benny Carter)
  • I'll Be Around (Alec Wilder)
  • This Can't be Love (Hart / Rodgers)
  • Avalon (DeSylva / Jolson / Rose)
  • My Foolish Heart (Washington / Young)
  • More Than You Know (Rose / Youmans / Eliscu)
  • Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn)
  • My Funny Valentine (Hart / Rodgers)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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